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'Psychic' Uri Geller sues over video clip on YouTube

YouTube video aiming to debunk Geller's supposedly paranormal spoon bending has drawn two lawsuits this week, with the "psychic" claiming copyright violations.

Early Wednesday we told you about a lawsuit that the Electronic Frontier Foundation filed against so-called psychic Uri Geller over allegedly misusing copyright law to silence critics on YouTube.

Now it turns out that there's a second lawsuit afoot, also filed this week. Geller's company, London-based Explorologist, filed a copyright lawsuit on Monday against a critic who is trying to debunk claims that the self-described psychic really is one.

Geller's company had sent YouTube a Digital Millennium Copyright Act notice taking issue with the Randi video, and claiming under penalty of perjury that it owned the copyright to it. EFF, on the other hand, claims in its lawsuit that Geller owns at most a few seconds of it--something that would likely be protected under U.S. fair use precedent.

If EFF is right, Geller could face legal liability and be forced to cough up some cash. In an earlier case, EFF managed to extract $125,000 from Diebold for misusing the DMCA takedown process.

But Geller seems to be claiming that a few seconds of video used for criticism in a 14-minute video segment is not fair use. Explorologist's complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia, says that the clip was used "within a sequence of cinematographic images" that, in total, "infringed the plaintiff's copyright." The suit accuses Brian Sapient of being behind the Rational Response Squad, which debunks claims of the paranormal and supernatural.

EFF staff attorney Marcia Hofmann declined to comment on the Explorologist v. Sapient lawsuit for now. "We're not willing to comment until Mr. Sapient has been served with papers," Hofmann said on Wednesday afternoon.

The Skeptic's Dictionary says this of Geller: "He calls himself a psychic and has sued several people for millions of dollars for saying otherwise. His psychic powers were not sufficient to reveal to him, however, that he would lose all the lawsuits against his critics."

A press release from Geller's lawyer (reproduced below) says: "The bottom line is Sapient did not ask for permission to use the copyrighted video." It also says the video clip length was 10 seconds, not 3 seconds. (Our own calculation puts the length at about 5 or 6 seconds.)

But the real bottom line seems to be whether it's legally permissible for someone to use a few seconds of video to analyze potential trickery by Geller, who calls himself "the world's most investigated and celebrated paranormalist." Should a public figure like that be able to use copyright law to squelch critics, or is protecting copyright more important?


Richard Winelander, Esq.
1005 North Calvert Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21202

The Truth Behind the Uri Geller YouTube Lawsuit

Philadelphia, PA, May 9, 2007 -- There are many untruths surrounding the YouTube Lawsuit beginning with the fact that the lawsuit was filed by Explorologist Ltd on May 7th in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Civil Action No: 071848) against Brian Sapient. Simply put, the lawsuit was filed by Explorologist Ltd for copyright infringement under British law for 10 seconds of video, not 3 seconds of video.

"The bottom line is Sapient did not ask for permission to use the copyrighted video--he does not own the portion of the video that deals with Dr. Hughes," said Richard Winelander, Explorologist's lawyer. "It is important to note this was not the first YouTube complaint against Sapient."

Winelander further added that Explorologist Ltd sued first in Sapient's home town, with the help of Philadelphia lawyer Alan Frank. Winelander concluded that Explorologist did NOT bend any DMCA rules.

"The video in question has been out there for years," said Uri Geller. "The concern of the company is the use of intellectual property without permission and nothing else--any other allegations are ludicrous. I am amazed by Sapient's lack of regard for property rights of others."

YouTube has a clearly stated copyright policy that says: "Do not upload copyrighted material for which you do not own the rights or have permission from the owner."

"Uri Geller is no stranger to controversy and there are many videos criticizing Uri on YouTube that we have no problem with. What we do mind is our copyrighted material being used without our consent," said Winelander.